Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon stated his intention Wednesday to oppose the decision taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn to postpone the opening a new public broadcasting corporation until January 2018.
“I, and my party, will oppose the delay of launching the public broadcasting corporation both in the Knesset and in the government,” Kahlon warned. The Kulanu chairman, who was apparently not made privy to the details surrounding the decision, presented to Netanyahu on Wednesday the costs involved in delaying the launch date of the corporation by more than a year - which could amount to as much as half a billion shekels: “We will not allow waste of public funds without any reason,” Kahlon assured.
As part of the coalition agreements between Kulanu and Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party, budget transfers exceeding 10 million shekels must receive the finance minister’s approval. In this case the money which will need to be transferred in order to implement the delay will require to be approved by Kahlon.
The new public broadcasting corporation was supposed to become live in October this year. On Monday however, Netanyahu and Nissenkorn announced that it would not do so until January 2018 without prior consultation with executives if the corporation.
The Histadrut and the ministry of communications issued a joint statement explaining the decision: “The new alternative public broadcasting via the new corporation is still not ready. Given the importance of not creating a break in public broadcasting - and of (maintaining) a continuous and full public broadcasting schedule - the closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) will be postponed until early 2018,” the statement read.
Contrary to their claims however, the New Broadcasting Company said on Tuesday night that it would indeed be ready to begin transmission by September 30. “The current postponement is devastating for public broadcasting,” said Eldad Koblenz, General Manager of the New Broadcasting Authority.
Those who have espoused views condemning the prime minister’s decision have claimed that it is merely a move designed to weaken public broadcasting and keep a lid on the establishment. Even Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett expressed concerns on Tuesday evening over the decision describing it as “surprising.” Over the last few days, Bennett said, attempts have been made “to narrow the freedom of the press and perhaps even to restrict it. I admit that it is not easy to wake up every morning to biting media criticism but this is the job of the media in a democratic state and it is our responsibility to preserve it as it is.”
Unlike Kahlon, Bennett has still not stated publicly whether he will vote against the decision but did indicate to his close associates in private conversations that he does not plan on supporting it. “There is a limit to everything,” he added.
The deal reached by Netanyahu will require a change in law and will therefore need to pass through a legislative committee meeting of ministers both in the Knesset and in the economics committee.